Historic venues and buildings have long been officially recognized under the National Historic Preservation Act, but until relatively recently no such body existed to recognize historically-significant cars. Back in 2009, that changed with the formation of the Historic Vehicle Association.
Set up for the "celebration and preservation of national automotive heritage", the HVA has just announced its first inductee: the 1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe. Designed by Peter Brock and now entering its 50th year, the Daytona Coupe has all the hallmarks of a historically-significant vehicle. It's a race-winner for a start, and not just any race winner--it helped secure the International Manufacturer's GT Championship in 1965, making Shelby the first American manufacturer to win an international race series.
As part of the HVA, a full historical roster of data, images and other related artifacts has been gathered to back up its provenance. Based in Washington, D.C, the HVA now holds written and historical descriptive data on the car, photos of the car from both modern times and archive shots, and even measured line-art elevation drawings, just as you'd find for historic buildings. Since all the data is publicly accessible, rights have been obtained for all archive images. Owners have a part to play too--while use of the cars is entirely up to owners and modifications are permitted, preservation is seen as a better way of maintaining the cars' value.
Now the ball is rolling, other vehicles are expected to make the HVA list shortly. Among those waiting in line are the 1907 Thomas Flyer that won the New York to Paris race in 1908, a 1918 Cadillac Model 57, the oldest-surviving Ford-build General Purpose vehicle or 'Jeep', and the first Meyers dune buggy produced. All will feature similarly comprehensive documentation and images. Non-American cars won't be excluded from the list either, provided they have significant American historical interest.
Over the coming years, the register may eventually hold data on hundreds or even thousands of vehicles--and it'll be quite the honor for owners of those vehicles to have them officially recognized by a body like the HVA.